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Sri Lanka video 'appears authentic'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 07 January 2010

An investigation commissioned for the United Nations says that a video broadcast on Channel 4 News showing Sri Lankan soldiers apparently executing naked Tamils 'appears to be authentic'. Jonathan Miller reports.

A frame from the execution video

The video, which contains extremely disturbing images, was obtained by the group Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka and it was shown on 25 August.

It provoked an angry reaction from Sri Lankan army spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, who said the footage was a fabrication designed to discredit security forces.

It also sparked a passionate debate on our World News Blog, where several posters thought it was fake, a view shared by the Sri Lankan government.

However, the report commissioned by the UN's Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, examined the video frame-by-frame and a group of experts said they could find no evidence that the video was a fake.

Channel 4 News foreign editor Ben de Pear said: "Since we broadcast the video on August 25, the Sri Lankan government has called press conferences, released technical investigations (which they said proved the footage was faked or doctored) and dispatched senior civil servants and politicians to London, New York and Geneva to publicly defend their position and criticise Channel 4 News.

"Thousands of phone calls, emails, blogs and postings have further questioned the authenticity of the video and the motivation of Channel 4 News running it and thousands more have called emailed and blogged to praise us for, they say, having told the truth.

"Whilst the furious debate that broadcast of the execution video has prompted continues unabated the vitally important questions it poses remain unanswered about what is happening in this grainy but horrific video.

"Questions the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch would like to try and answer. But without access to Sri Lanka and a full independent investigation, they say it is impossible to do so."

Sri Lanka High Commission Statement

We contacted the Sri Lankan High Commission to ask for an interview - they gave us this statement instead.

"The government of Sri Lanka considers that Prof. Philip Alston has acted violating all stipulated UN procedures, norms of justice and equity in issuing his public statement on the video footage...

"The views expressed by the experts commissioned by Prof. Alston are quite ambiguous. There are no firm indications that video footage is authentic."

Our Washington correspondent Sarah Smith is at the United Nations in New York.

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